My Nine Lives

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 April, 2005, 12:00am

My Nine Lives

by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

John Murray $124

This short story collection is subtitled Chapters of a Possible Past. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala - who won the 1975 Booker Prize for Heat and Dust and wrote the screenplays for Howard's End and A Room With a View - describes it as 'potentially autobiographical'. She moved, at the age of 12, to London with her middle-class German-Jewish parents. She studied literature at London University, married an Indian architect and moved to New Delhi. Jhabvala tweaks these experiences to explore alternative outcomes to her life. In Refuge in London, an aunt takes a girl from Germany to London, saving her from the Holocaust. In A Choice of Heritage, a girl spends summers with her Indian grandmother in old Delhi and the rest of the year with her father's 'totally English' family. Circumstances may change, but her character remains the same, and character determines fate.